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AIGA Philadelphia Fiasco

Conversation with AIGA Philly president about the state of their web site.

design, usability,

aiga philadelphia

A compressed blog post about the state of the AIGA Philadelphia web site. This was originally two blog posts with many comments from people in the Philadelphia area, and surprise input from the President of AIGA Philly.

First Blog Post

Dear AIGA Philadelphia,

You mean very well, and I have been a huge supporter of professional development for designers of all types since I graduated from school. Your mission statement is clear, simple and straight forward.

AIGA's mission is to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force.

— AIGA Philly' web site

Yet your web site has double scroll bars… How do you expect me to learn from you when your web site looks like a magazine? The web is not print, and you need to design accordingly. Pretty, yes (sorta). Usable, not really. Cluttered, most definitely.

aiga philadelphia web site screenshot

My attention came to your web site front and center when Jason Fried from 37 Signals was giving a talk that AIGA set-up (lecture was great by the way). I went to try and sign-up for the lecture, and I ended up needing a friend in my office to IM me the link to register. WTF AIGA?

Usability is sweeping the web, yet apparently that wind of change has not yet hit AIGA Philadelphia. People do not like to read, let alone do an exhaustive search so they can register to hear someone that speaks of simplicity, clarity, and usability. Unfortunately my work as a freelancer this past year in Philadelphia has led me to come across many print designers that are trying to transition onto the web – and most are pretty terrible. A good first step in mentoring these people should be a redesign of their own web site, because I have a hard time using it right now.

Comment by the President of AIGA Philly

Dear Steve,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It may please you to know that AIGA Philadelphia is aware of the concerns you mention and has a new site underway. As I'm sure you know, good design takes time, so you'll have to be a little patient.

I would also like to express how proud I am to be involved with an organization like AIGA. This sense of pride comes largely from the fact that all our activities – from events like the Jason Fried lecture you attended (and benefited from) to the design, maintenance and construction of our website – are the result of donated volunteer labor. I am greatly appreciative of the past and current efforts of these passionate people.

It is also important to note that we are a non-profit organization. Any money we acquire from dues, or event entry fees, goes right back into the production of further events which educate and provide opportunity to the community. We are motivated by the desire to provide inspirational, ethical and strategic support for designers.

Lastly, an AIGA chapter is a representation of the collective design conscious in the area it serves. AIGA is open to all. While it is easy to criticize, it is certainly more worthwhile to actively participate and serve as a positive proponent for design and designers. In other words, if AIGA isn't satisfying your needs, there is always the opportunity to volunteer for a committee and make things better.

Best,
Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel

AIGA Philadelphia President

Public Response to AIGA Philly

Sometimes it takes a kick in the butt, or someone else to find the inspiration and motivation to make something. In my last post I voiced my frustration over the poor quality of AIGA Philly's web site (I also sent it to the president directly in an email).

Well Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel sent a well thought out and appropriate response. She took the finger that I was pointing at AIGA Philly and pointed it right back at me. So fuck that I am going to do something about it.

So using her comment as a brief, and their current web site as a template – lets break it down briefly.

What the site currently does:

  • Events
  • Info
  • Bios / History / aura of legitimacy
  • Lots of AIGAy stuff that is all on the national site
  • Lots of crap I can't digest easily

Who maintains it: Members, with little time, they need an efficient way to communicate

Just like software design, you can't have everything at the start. So lets trim the fat. My first move would be to take all the information that is on the national site and either just provide links to it, or remove it entirely. The national AIGA site is awesome, and seemly well funded. There is also a lot of repeat content sprinkled all over in different categories. If you really are doing that, then your information architecture is broke. Here is a quick site map of their current site:

aiga philadelphia site diagram

I created four main categories: main, events, membership, about. That pretty much covers most of the information. Obviously there will be some information that certain different active members of AIGA will champion which will have to be dealt with. You can then easily break all of the existing information up into pages underneath. I am a huge fan of less is more. People don't like reading, period. Maybe I will look into designing the secondary pages at a later point if this gains traction, but otherwise you need to take a leap of faith that the second level down information can be easily displayed.

On to the homepage. Here is what I have created:

aiga philadelphia site redesign prototype

Quick, dirty and simple. The top:

aiga philadelphia site redesign prototype header

So AIGA Philadelphia. Cool we know who this is. Gratuitous skyline shot of Philly. Easy. Now we could get fancy and have a member provided flickr feed the background so that it would change. Might hinder readability on “Philadelphia”, but I am sure we can find ways to mitigate that problem. We could even show off member's art projects, neat photos, event photos, etc. Possibly provide a caption much in the same way you do now at the top. Flickr feed – to save time in providing new content to the site. Lots of focus on saving time, and making it easy to stay “fresh”.

Simple navigation, nice and big. Breadcrumbs would be underneath, or secondary categories.

BAM! Latest event! Read it – it is huge and informative. Since AIGA usually is associated with lectures, meet-ups, etc – make it easy. On AIGA's current site, there are two different types of date driven events – actual events and updates. Well that is a hard one to figure out from the sidelines but put them in one. It is hard to differentiate them anyway. You can click on “view all events” to see them all.

Next Row:

aiga philadelphia site redesign prototype next row

Well up to the internal team to figure out what exactly goes here. Mostly depends on their goals internally. Either way second tier information. I choose About, National News, and I have no idea for the last one. Possibly a message from the board or something.

Last Row:

aiga philadelphia site redesign prototype last row

Here is where you have the newsletter sign-up, recent jobs, some state of design from the president or something, and something about membership because that is what powers AIGA.

That is it. Straightforward, readable, and simple.

I took just under 3 hours to design it and breakdown your current site. Sure you can polish up what I have here. I did take an easy out with the Philly skyline background that I stole from flickr. Eh – gets the point across.

Comments? Questions? Let me know. Will I make it? Sure if AIGA Philly is receptive. I work with Ruby on Rails developers that could help me. Might take a bit since it will be volunteered. Maybe considering it a tax deductible donation will help in that decision. *shrugs*

Either way this was an awesome exercise. I had fun and enjoyed the response that was received. I be at tomorrow's happy hour at Irish Pub, so if any of your AIGAers want to talk then, I will be there.

I have found that speaking openly and honestly is the best way to go. Even if they don't want my design (or my opinion for that matter) – maybe it stirs the design conversation internally and gets them to get their new site design out faster. Or maybe it just brings up a good conversation that entices collaboration. Or maybe they get pissed off at me and talk about web design for a few minutes? It is a win win no matter how you look at it.